Cross-Platform System Management

Written by Vince Lujan on July 6, 2018

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Updated on February 23, 2021

System management refers to the process of administering devices such as laptops, desktops, servers and potentially other IT components. It is a foundational concept in any IT environment. The trouble is that traditional system management solutions have primarily focused on supporting the Microsoft® Windows® operating system (OS) and Windows-based systems. So, as more macOS® and Linux® systems are added to enterprise networks, more IT admins have come to realize that a cross-platform system management solution would be quite useful.

Traditional System Management Solutions

Traditional System Management Solutions

Historically, most IT environments were on-prem and Windows-based. In fact, it was once common for all of the systems, applications, files, and networks in a given environment to revolve around the Windows OS. This Windows-centric approach enabled IT organizations to leverage traditional Microsoft tools such as SCCM® (formerly SMS) and Active Directory® (AD) to manage all of the Windows users and systems in their environment. These platforms also introduced an interesting system management concept that enabled IT admins to manage groups of Windows-based systems all at once. Microsoft refers to this system management concept as Group Policy, which is applied to systems via Group Policy Objects (GPOs).

GPOs are effectively prescribed commands and scripts that execute tasks on Windows systems. They are generally used to control a wide variety of Windows system policies, such as configuring screen-lock timeout, disabling USB ports, managing guest access, and more. The key advantage is that IT admins can configure system policies for groups of Windows systems at once from one centralized location via AD. This unified approach saves IT admins a huge amount of time and effort compared to configuring system policies granularly, especially for larger organizations with a fleet of Windows systems. The trouble was (and still is) that AD’s powerful system management capabilities only work for Windows-based systems.

Traditional System Management Challenges

securing endpoint user access

As Mac and Linux became popular Windows alternatives, IT admins found that Active Directory did not offer the same level of support for these non-Windows platforms. Initially, the lack of support meant that IT admins were forced to manage Mac and Linux systems independently. Eventually, third-party directory extensions emerged, which could extend AD functionality such as GPO-like capabilities to Mac and Linux, but this approach added significant cost and complexity from having to implement and manage multiple solutions on-prem.

To add fuel to the fire, Mac and Linux systems weren’t the only IT resources that were difficult to manage with AD. New innovations such as web applications, third-party storage options, and cloud infrastructure at AWS®  were also emerging. These products and services required their own add-on solutions such as web application single sign-on (SSO), identity bridges, privileged identity management, and more. Inevitably, IT admins recognized the fact that patching AD for every non-Windows IT resource in their environment no longer made sense. As a result, they began to consider alternative solutions that could offer cross-platform system management capabilities and more without anything on-prem and without a host of add-on solutions.

Next Generation System Management

next generation system management

The good news is that a next generation Active Directory replacement (a.k.a., a holistic cloud directory) has come to market that offers cross-platform system management capabilities as a core functionality of the overall platform. It’s called JumpCloud Directory Platform, and it not only natively supports Windows, macOS, and Linux systems, but also web and on-prem applications leveraging SAML and LDAP, web and on-prem storage solutions (e.g., Dropbox™, Google Drive™, Samba file servers, and NAS appliances), cloud infrastructure at AWS and GCP™, networks via RADIUS, and more. The JumpCloud IDaaS platform even offers its own cross-platform GPO-like capabilities, which enable IT admins to manage system policies across their disparate fleets of systems from one centralized location. All of which is available from a single, comprehensive cloud-based directory services platform that doesn’t require anything on-prem or any third-party add-on solutions. Sound too good to be true?

Learn More About JumpCloud

Cross-platform system management is a core use case of JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform. Sign up for a free account to see this functionality and more in action today. We offer 10 users and 10 devices for free to help you explore the full functionality of our product. Don’t hesitate to contact the JumpCloud team if you have any questions. We have also created the following whiteboard video if you are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of our cross-platform system management capabilities.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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